Manchester United Rebuild: De Gea, Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo all replaceable in potential mass clear-out

Posted Thursday, March 10, 2022 by

Manchester United Rebuild: De Gea, Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo all replaceable in potential mass clear-out

We've seen enough from Manchester United in recent years to understand that no single coach can fix this squad – it's completely unbalanced, lacking in quality, and large, but how many of the 38 senior players listed on the club's website actually look like valuable first-team players going forward?

It's a damning indictment that so many players probably need to move on, but a look at those currently under contract shows just how much work needs to be done.

Goalkeepers (David de Gea, Dean Henderson, Lee Grant, Tom Heaton)

There are two decisions to be made here – Grant and Heaton essentially fulfill the same role as emergency/veteran back-up, but both could actually be kept on if there's another departure.

David de Gea is so maddeningly frustrating because he's capable of making astonishing saves or some ridiculous decisions, sometimes in the same passage of play, while Dean Henderson isn't going to stick around forever, so somebody is going to have to go. At this stage, we've seen enough from the Spaniard to know he's not going to improve, so giving Henderson a season to establish himself and finding a buyer for de Gea looks like the most acceptable option.

Keep: Henderson, Grant, Heaton

Sell/release: De Gea

Defence (Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Teden Mengi)

Would it be possible to actually sell the entire defensive unit? Probably not, but it speaks volumes that there's not a single player on that list where it feels like it would be a major blow, and it all starts with Harry Maguire. He's the captain and it would be a huge political decision to let him go after all the money that was spent on him, but it's reached a stage where he is just holding the team back now. Finding a buyer is going to be hard, but he either needs to go or they need to accept he has some serious shortcomings and go all-in on building a unit around him to protect those from being exposed on a regular basis.

If he's fit Raphael Varane should be kept on and Luke Shaw has demonstrated that he can play at a high enough level to match United's ambitions going forward, while Mengi is still young enough that enough loan spell could help his development, but it's almost impossible to argue that any other player from that list plays a regular role for any of the other teams pushing for a top-four place, never mind the title.

Lindelof switches off too easily and isn't brave enough, Bailly is far too rash to be relied upon, Phil Jones is never available, Diogo Dalot is average at best, similar things could be said of Alex Telles and Wan Bissaka, while Williams and Tuanzebe haven't shown anything to suggest they'll develop into first-team regulars at Old Trafford.

Keep: Varane, Shaw, Mengi

Sell/release: Lindelof, Bailly, Jones, Maguire, Dalot, Telles, Wan-Bissaka, Williams, Tuanzebe

Midfield (Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Amad Diallo, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Facundo Pellistri, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek, James Garner, Scott McTominay, Hannibal)

The midfield is the key to the modern game, and United do have a lot of central midfielders who are good at specific things, but they just can't find a stable combination that allows multiple players to shine and actually control that area of the park, so some big decisions need to be made.

Bruno Fernandes is a key player to this team and is unlikely to leave, but Paul Pogba continues to underwhelm and is going to command a huge wage so it might actually make sense to let him go for nothing for a second time. Beyond that, Scott McTominay is the kind of player that will be useful in most games and is worth keeping, but again, you can argue that players like Mata, Matic, and Fred have no business being near a team with title ambitions, while Jesse Lingard and van de Beek probably need to leave to play regularly.

The youngsters may need to go out on loan again but still have the potential to improve, but this unit simply needs to be built around Fernandes going forward.

Keep: Amad Diallo, Bruno Fernandes, Pellistri, James Garner, Scott McTominay, Hannibal.

Sell/release: Pogba, Mata, Lingard, Pereira, Fred, Matic, van de Beek

Attack (Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Elanga, Tahith Chong, Shola Shoretire

Of course, the whole point of your attack is to create and score goals, but they also need to fulfill some kind of defensive function, especially when you don't have a solid midfield and a defence that leaks goals. the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo undoubtedly unbalances the whole team, no matter how brilliant he might be, so you can make an argument that he needs to move on and have his final great years somewhere else where everything can be built around him.

There is some serious pace and talent with Rashford, Sancho, and Elanga, while Shoretire is still only 18 and working his way into the team. Outside of those four, Greenwood is obviously out of the picture, Martial simply isn't good enough and Cavani will likely move on, so it does look like a new number 9 will be needed, but if they're good enough then there's enough to build around here.

Keep: Rashford, Sancho, Elanga, Shoretire

Sell/Release: Ronaldo, Martial, Greenwood, Cavani, Chong

Obviously, it's hard to offload so many players when you consider the wages involved and a potential lack of interest, but when you can make an argument for so many players being moved on then it shows just how big this mess really is.

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